Festivals in Mongolia take place all over the country as well as in the cities and concentrate on traditional culture and the animals which make nomadic tribe life possible. Many events are held in areas of supreme natural beauty with Naadam and Independence Day the all-time favorites.
Mongolia follows the lunar calendar with New Year's falling somewhere between the end of January and March. Preparations begin a month in advance and involve special foods, gift, and the cleaning of homes. Women make new clothes for the family and a sheep is killed for the feast. On New Year’s Day, everyone watches the sun rise, followed by gift-giving and traditional greeting to family and friends before feasting, drinking and welcoming visitors for the rest of the day.
February’s Ice Festival is held in the spectacular surroundings of magnificent Khovsgol Lake, attended by the Tsaatan Reindeer people who live on the mountains surrounding the water. Local craftsmen carve blocks of ice from the frozen lake and sculpt intricate decorative panels and images as visitors go on reindeer rides and dog-sledding. Traditional shamanistic ceremonies take place along with dancing, singing, ice-skating, and wrestling contests.
Thousand Camel Festival
Held in February in Dalanzadgad, this Mongolia festival is a must-see if hours of endless fun with bad-tempered, spitting animals are your thing. The ever-popular event celebrates the endangered, two-humped Bactrian camel and the part it’s played in Gobi nomadic life. Races, camel polo, prettiest camel contests, and a "most beautiful couple on the best-decorated camel" contest go on all day accompanied by vast quantities of food and drinks.
International Women’s Day
March in Mongolia sees International Women’s Day celebrated as a national holiday to honor the social, political and economic achievements of past, present and future women across the world.
Mothers and Children’s Day
Held in June, this festival tends to be focused more on the children than their mothers with picnics, trips to local movie theaters or toy shops for a special treat. Many towns and villages give presentations in the main square to honor special moms and talented kids where stalls selling traditional food is set up.
Naadam, celebrated all over the country in July, is the most important festival of the year. It’s Mongolia's National Day, marked by three traditional contests- archery, wrestling and horse-racing. Best seen in Ulan Bator, this joyous event draws many thousands of visitors to compete, watch traditional folk performances, see a variety of tribal costumes, enjoy parties and street celebrations, and eat and drink.
The Yak Festival takes place every August in Khorgo National Park around the White Lake. It's a light-hearted, fun event celebrating the wildly woolly beasts and their impact on the Mongolian lifestyle. Highlights include yak racing, perhaps the slowest races in the world, yak-lassoing and yak polo, during which the ungainly beasts lumber in all directions while their riders make desperate attempts to hit a ball with a large elongated hammer. Great fun is had by all, including the spectators.
Held on November 26, Independence Day marks the establishment of the Mongolian Constitution and is the biggest civic festival of the year. In 1924, the "People’s Republic" tag was dropped from the country’s official title, although this national holiday is also a remembrance of all the lost years spent under Soviet reign.